The Same-Sex Marriage Plebiscite Will Reportedly Be Delayed Until Next Year

The $160 million opinion poll will be apparently be delayed until February.

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

Just when you think Malcolm Turnbull has run out of ways to disappoint you, he somehow manages to pull another dead rabbit out of his hat. Case in point: several media outlets are reporting that the Turnbull government’s controversial plebiscite on same-sex marriage will be delayed until February, despite repeated assertions during the election campaign that it would be held by the end of this year

According to a story in The Daily Telegraph, Turnbull will make the announcement at a Coalition party room on September 13, with the vote set to take place in late February. The paper also reports that the exact wording of the plebiscite will read “do you approve of a law to permit people of the same sex to marry?” Voting is expected to be compulsory, with fines being issued to those who fail to comply – despite the fact that the result will be non-binding, with Coalition MPs allowed to vote in parliament in whatever way they damn well please.

Turnbull had previously said that there would be “ample time” for the vote to be held in 2016, although he did start laying the groundwork for a backtrack shortly after the election. A spokesperson for the government denied that any decision regarding the wording or timing of the plebiscite had been made, although they did confirm that the Australian Electoral Commission had “strongly recommended against the conduct of a plebiscite this calendar year.”

“The government has always said that a decision on same-sex marriage will be made by a vote of all Australians in a national plebiscite to be held as soon as practicable,” the spokesperson told Fairfax. “That commitment has not changed.”

If the vote is bumped, it will mark the latest controversy in what already looms as a potential disaster for the Turnbull government. A recent poll found that less than 50 per cent of people think the non-binding vote is a good idea, with that number dropping to 25 per cent when respondents got wind of the estimated $160 million price tag. There are also fears that a public vote would spark an aggressive ‘no’ campaign that could flame hatred and harm members of the LGBTQI community.

Of course all this supposes that the Coalition can even get the appropriate plebiscite-enabling legislation through parliament, which as we covered in the aftermath of the election is by no means a guarantee. Both the Greens and Labor would prefer a free parliamentary vote, and Bill Shorten has suggested his party may attempt to block said legislation in an attempt to force the issue.

So, to recap: the Libs want tax payers to fork out $160 million (or more) for what amounts to little more than an opinion poll, one that we already know that several members of their own party are planning to ignore and is all but guaranteed to inspire hateful rhetoric that will cause genuine distress to many Australians. And now, on top of everything, it’s probably going to be late.

Great stuff.